Managing COVID-19 risks: Personal care and beauty industry

Managing risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the personal care and beauty industry.

Pandemic Orders and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Minister for Health's Pandemic Orders and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian Pandemic Orders for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations
  • be subject to COVID-19 vaccination requirements

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan. COVIDSafe plans should be reviewed and updated regularly.

COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Pandemic Orders issued by the Victorian Minister for Health.

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian Pandemic Orders does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any Pandemic Orders that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

Transmission of COVID-19

Researchers are still learning about COVID-19, its long-term effects and emerging variants.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that can result in mild to very severe illness and death.

The main way COVID-19 spreads is when a person with COVID-19 exhales droplets and/or aerosol particles containing the virus. This can happen when they breathe out, cough, sneeze, speak, shout or sing.

Exhaled droplets range in size. Large droplets settle out of the air faster than they evaporate. Small droplets remain suspended in the air for longer periods. Very fine droplets may contain the virus, and can stay suspended in the air for anywhere from minutes to hours. Small droplets and particles are often referred to as ‘aerosols’.

Transmission of COVID-19 can occur in a number of ways, and possibly in combination.

1. Airborne transmission

This occurs when a person inhales aerosols that may contain viral particles that are infectious.

While the risk of transmission is highest when close to an infectious person, air currents can disperse small droplets and particles over long distances. These may be inhaled by people who have not had face-to-face contact or been in the same space with the infectious person. Airborne transmission is more likely to occur in indoor or enclosed settings that are poorly ventilated, crowded, or both. In these kinds of settings, the virus may remain suspended in the air for longer and increase the risk of spread as people tend to spend longer periods in indoor settings.

2. Droplet transmission

Transmission occurs where exhaled droplets from a person with COVID-19 come into contact with another person's mucosal surfaces (nose, mouth or eyes). The risk of transmission is highest when close to the source, where the concentration of these droplets is greatest.

3. Contaminated surfaces transmission

People may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands.

COVID-19 and the personal care and beauty industry

The personal care and beauty industry employs people in barber shops, beauty services, electrolysis, hairdressing, make up, massage, nail care and skin care services.

Employees in the personal care and beauty industry may have an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to:

  • work that requires close contact between employees and clients, for example when providing services that require physical contact
  • shared handling and use of rooms, tools and equipment
  • handling money or credit/debit cards
  • engaging with delivery drivers or contractors attending the workplace

Under the OHS Act, employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, including independent contractors. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.

Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own and others' health and safety in the workplace and cooperate with their employers about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or Regulations.

Identifying risks

Employers must identify hazards and if necessary, assess the likelihood of risk to the health of employees from exposure to COVID-19 at their workplace. This must be done in consultation with health and safety representatives (HSRs) if any, and employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers should consider every employee, from those working in reception, handling deliveries and product sales, through to those involved in providing personal services. This includes contractors and/or their employees who are required to come on site to carry out work for the employer, such as servicing and maintenance of equipment.

Risks for employees in the personal care and beauty industry include:

  • tasks that require employees to be in close contact to other employees, contractors and the public, especially if for prolonged periods of time
  • shared use of tools and equipment, for example, computers, telephones, EFTPOS machines and tools required to deliver services such as hair styling and beauty therapy equipment
  • handling products others have touched, for example, hair and skin products, nail polishes or massage oils
  • interaction with suppliers during product deliveries

Employers must also identify whether there are other increased risks as a result of COVID-19, such as:

  • fatigue and stress because of changes in the workplace, for example, changes to work processes, work hours and rosters
  • musculoskeletal risks associated with changes to the physical workplace or systems of work

Controlling risks

Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk. Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk, then the risk must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The types of control measures required depends on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace, including individual work areas.

Face masks in workplaces

Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.

COVID-19 vaccinations in workplaces

COVID-19 vaccination is one control measure that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces. This should be part of a suite of controls used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.

Consult with employees

Employers have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors and any health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consultation on identifying hazards or risks and decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19.

The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.

Ensure employees know what to do

An employer's duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable includes ensuring that:

  • confirmed COVID-19 cases do not attend the workplace
  • employees know what to do or who to notify if they feel unwell or suspect they've been infected, according to the information provided by DH
  • employees who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 are instructed to follow DH procedures
  • any unwell employee does not attend the workplace, including those who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting their test result

The symptoms of COVID-19 are: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If an employee develops any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, they should:

  • self-isolate immediately, get tested and if needed, seek advice from their doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
  • tell their employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures their workplace has in place to deal with symptomatic people, and update their employer if their situation changes, for example: if they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis

In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case or cases at the workplace, Pandemic Orders issued by the Victorian Minister for Health may also require employers to take specific response actions.

Screening

Employers should implement an employee screening process to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace. Employers should ask employees before they enter the workplace if they are currently subject to any Pandemic Order requirements (such as needing to isolate or quarantine), and instruct employees who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to follow Department of Health (DH) procedures.

Physical distancing

Employers need to ensure that physical distancing of at least a 1.5-metre distance between people is maintained, wherever possible.

Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, Workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.

Controls to achieve physical distancing may include:

  • mark safe distances in work, transit and break areas (for example on floors and walls)
  • install signs to advise clients of the requirements and the number of clients allowed in the particular space
  • introduce a booking system to specify the maximum number of clients to be in the workplace at any one time
  • consider temporarily ceasing any walk-in client services and request clients to book appointments before attending the workplace
  • minimise crowding at the service desk by having clients pay and rebook when seated in the workspace using EFTPOS and encouraging the use of phone or online bookings
  • encourage attendance just before an appointment. If the waiting area is full, request clients to come back at the appointed time
  • request clients leave the workplace promptly after the service has been provided
  • provide enough time between appointments so that clients do not overlap when arriving and leaving the workplace
  • if appointments are running overtime, contact clients to reschedule
  • allocate seating in waiting areas to ensure physical distancing of 1.5 metres between clients
  • redesign the workplace to ensure that the workspace enables physical distancing and any relevant density quotient rules that apply
  • where it is not possible to achieve physical distancing (for example when providing certain services to clients) supply appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees
  • request clients not bring family members or others to appointments
  • install physical barriers such as partitions to separate employees and clients from each other
  • allocate employees their own workspace or service room, products and equipment to avoid employees sharing products or equipment or entering each other's spaces
  • arrange equipment and product at each workspace to avoid employees moving around the workplace, including products needed for cleaning equipment
  • if using fans, position them in a way so that air is not blown directly from one person to another

The Victorian DH and the Australian Government have posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These can be placed in environments where employees interact with clients and other people, for example in workplace entrances.

Ventilation

People in indoor environments, particularly in crowded or inadequately ventilated spaces, are at a higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. When someone infected with COVID-19 has been present, the virus may linger in poorly ventilated spaces or areas with stagnant air for a longer period of time.

Providing an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) to enclosed areas of a workplace dilutes the number of airborne virus particles and lowers transmission risk. Improving ventilation alone does not reduce the risk of transmission via droplets and contaminated surfaces. It needs to be considered as part of a suite of infection control measures.

Adequate ventilation can be achieved using natural or mechanical ventilation, or a combination of the two.

  • Natural ventilation is fresh air coming in through open windows, doors or air vents.
  • Mechanical ventilation means a method of forced or induced ventilation using mechanical air-handling systems that bring in fresh air from outside. It forms part of a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Note: Natural ventilation is dependent on variable local conditions (eg window opening size, weather conditions including wind speed and direction) and may not always be effective in quickly removing airborne virus particles.

Better ventilation can be achieved by:

  • increasing the rate that air is supplied
  • increasing the supply of fresh outdoor air
  • reducing or eliminating recirculated air in HVAC systems
  • improving filtration for air recirculated by HVAC systems if the ventilation rate is not compromised
  • regular maintenance of the HVAC system, including changing filters

Guidance on HVAC systems is available in AS1668.2:2012 The use of ventilation and air-conditioning in buildings, Part 2: Mechanical ventilation in buildings. Further information on HVAC systems and COVID-19 is available in World Health Organization (WHO) guidance Roadmap to improve and ensure good indoor ventilation in the context of COVID-19 (who.int).

In areas where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation and there is a high risk of transmission, portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered air cleaners may be appropriate to be used to reduce the concentration of airborne virus particles and other aerosol contaminants. These units are not a substitute for ventilation. Employers should assess the risk and/or undertake a ventilation assessment to identify what ventilation strategies are appropriate for the space and whether an air cleaner is needed and consider operational placement and maintenance of these units.

Employers should work with the building's owner or manager to improve ventilation where possible. Engaging a suitably qualified person such as an occupational hygienist or a ventilation engineer to advise and assist should also be considered.

For more information about ventilation, see the following documents on the DH Infection prevention control (IPC) resources page:

  • COVID-19: Ventilation principles and strategies to reduce aerosol transmission in community and workplace settings.
  • Department of Health IPC Ventilation Policy.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission from air-circulating, wind-blowing devices and activities.
  • Ventilation strategies to reduce COVID-19 infection, when used as per DH guidelines.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Other than face masks, other forms of PPE may be used in certain situations, after other control measures to protect against COVID-19 have been considered and implemented.

In some cases, the use of PPE (such as gloves, eye protection and disposable gowns) may be appropriate and recommended, such as when physical distancing cannot be achieved, or when the task involves risk of exposure to a client's blood or body fluids.

PPE needs to be practical for the work environment (allowing the necessary visibility and mobility) and properly decontaminated or disposed of when required.

Employers must provide information, instruction and training on the safe use, decontamination, maintenance and disposal of any PPE provided. They must also provide any necessary supervision.

Where PPE is required, employers must ensure that adequate PPE is available on site and within easy access.

Employers should monitor and encourage correct use of PPE, for example by providing information on posters about:

  • washing or sanitising hands before putting PPE on, and putting face protection on before gloves
  • removing gloves before face protection, washing or sanitising hands after removing PPE and decontaminating or disposing of used PPE safely

Employers should follow DH information on the appropriate use of PPE for COVID-19 in the work environment and Health Victoria's Infection prevention and control guidelines for hair, beauty, tattooing and skin penetration industries.

Employee and client hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employers should:

  • ensure all employees and clients follow good hygiene practices, including:
    • washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
    • coughing and sneezing into a tissue or coughing into their elbow or shoulder
    • immediately disposing of tissues into a waste bin, then washing hands
    • avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • require clients wash hands or apply alcohol-based hand sanitiser on entering the workplace, in particular if working on hands (for example, nail services)
  • clean and disinfect surfaces and shared equipment after use
  • limit contact with others
  • display hygiene information in prominent locations in the workplace, such as meal break rooms, waiting areas and toilets

Employers also need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available. Place hand sanitiser in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. If possible, choose touch-free hand sanitiser stations.

Employers should also consider other ways to promote personal hygiene, such as:

  • building additional short breaks into employee schedules, to increase the frequency that employees can wash their hands
  • extending currently rostered breaks to allow employees to follow proper hygiene procedures
  • providing tissues and no-touch trash receptacles (for example, foot pedal-operated rubbish bins) for employees to use
  • reducing the number of touch points for employees (for example, by leaving access doors open where appropriate)

Employers should educate employees to avoid touching their faces, including their eyes, nose and mouth, particularly until after they have thoroughly washed their hands upon completing work and before putting on and after removing PPE.

Amenities

Employers need to ensure that washroom facilities for employees and clients have adequate facilities for good hygiene, including:

  • clean running water
  • adequate supply of soap
  • single-use paper hand towels or hand-drying machines
  • toilet paper

Facilities must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.

Workplace cleaning

Thorough and regular cleaning needs to be undertaken of all frequently touched surfaces, such as:

  • door handles
  • counters
  • phones
  • EFTPOS machines

Employers should increase their usual cleaning practises, including at the end of each client service. In addition, employers should:

  • ensure employees frequently clean and disinfect their own personal items used in the workplace, such as glasses and phones
  • ensure workplace amenities including kitchens, lunchrooms, common areas, change rooms, toilets, and showers are cleaned and disinfected frequently. The frequency of this cleaning should increase from usual practices

Additional cleaning controls that may be required include:

  • ensure surfaces are cleaned if an employee or client spreads droplets, such as through sneezing, coughing or vomiting
  • ensure employees who are cleaning, wear gloves and follow manufacturers recommendations for use of PPE. For example, employees may need protective eye wear when using some chemicals. Where possible, wash hands with soap and water after cleaning or, if washing is not possible, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • provide closed bins in appropriate locations for employees to hygienically dispose of waste such as used tissues as soon as possible after use
  • provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser for employees to use after they dispose of their waste
  • where employees' work clothes are washed on site, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air
  • consider increasing the use of fresh outside air and reducing the use of recirculated air- conditioning in common areas

Cleaning needs to be conducted in accordance with the Victorian DH information on cleaning and disinfecting for workplaces.

Shared tools and equipment

Avoid the shared use of tools and equipment and consider using disposable items, wherever possible:

  • allocate each employee their own equipment and tools, such as trolleys, scissors, hair dryers, brushes and combs, etc
  • encourage clients to put on and remove their own protective clothing (for example capes, linen) and place in appropriate hampers

Where it is not possible to eliminate shared use:

  • provide cleaning products (for example, alcohol spray or solution) where communal tools and equipment are located
  • if tools or equipment must be moved around the workplace, keep cleaning products with them
  • ensure all employees thoroughly wash with soap and water or sanitise their hands before and after every use
  • ensure all parts of tools and equipment are sterilised or cleaned as appropriate after use
  • ensure items that come into contact with clients (such as linen) are stored in closed cabinets

The shared use of phones, desks, computers and other devices should also be avoided. Where this is not possible, these items should be regularly disinfected.

Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • minimise the number of employees attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible
  • delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace to provide maintenance, repair services or perform other essential activities, should receive clear instructions of requirements while they are at the workplace
  • ensure handwashing facilities or, if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for employees after physically handling deliveries
  • instruct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods (such as mobile phones) to communicate with employees wherever possible
  • instruct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered
  • use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paperwork where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For example, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection, as applicable

Communication and employee welfare

Employers should:

  • keep up to date with information on COVID-19, for example by regularly checking coronavirus.vic.gov.au, and regularly share this information with employees
  • maintain regular communication with employees on how COVID-19 is being managed at the workplace, and what controls are being put in place
  • provide information to employees in a format that they can readily understand (for example in their own language) and in multiple formats, such as email, posters and verbally
  • ensure there are contingency plans in place for employee replacement when necessary

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the OHS Act, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees and independent contractors
  • provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • monitor the health of their employees
  • monitor conditions at any workplace under the employer's management and control
  • provide information concerning health and safety to employees, including (where appropriate) in languages other than English
  • ensure that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer
  • consult with employees and HSRs, if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect or are likely to directly affect them

A person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.

Employees also have duties under the OHS Act, which includes that they must:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety
  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee's acts or omissions at a workplace
  • co-operate with their employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with a requirement imposed by or under the OHS Act

The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and powers to take issues further if necessary.